The MasterMinds Finalists: Part Three

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Winnowing down Dallas' growing, dynamic community of artists to three MasterMinds involved some tough choices. The process was like lining up at a vast buffet prepared by an outstanding chef: too many wonderful selections and too little room on our plates. On the way to naming the winners, our judges narrowed down the original list of 45 entrants to 10 tasty finalists.

Each day until the three MasterMinds winners are announced via our next issue Thursday, we're featuring those finalists (in no particular order) right here on the Mixmaster. Check out Monday's and yesterday's if you missed them, and you'll find today's after the jump.

Lawrence Lee Sketch artist Lee grew up watching reruns of classic cartoons that unselfconsciously used racial images and caricatures, denigrating people of color as subhuman, comical savages. Those images simply do not make sense in modern context, but Lee has, over the course of his wildly successful young career, found himself exploring them, empowering those disenfranchised characters -- think "Sambo" images from the 1920s and '30s or anthropomorphic animals -- in a fantasy world of swirling design and cohesive storyline. Lee's "epic" contains more than 100 pieces, using graphite, ink, charcoal and tea stains to reclaim damaging images and to transform them into a cast of heroes on a mission to save the world from evil. Fantastic as Lee's imagined world may seem, however, his work is strikingly apropos of our society, where racism percolates beneath a civilized veneer.

Linda Stogner Filmmaker, stand-up comedienne, comedy advocate Few can claim that the first seven months of their lives involved armed robbery and gangsters on the south side of Chicago, but Stogner does just that in her charming autobiographical short film, Adopted: A Love Story, in which she tells the story of how she came to live with the "two old people" who became her beloved parents. Today, Stogner is a comedienne, filmmaker and local legend who has taken her beginning in stride, finding humor in its absurdity and seeing it as a jumping-off point for a career in comedy that has spanned more than 25 years. Co-founder of the Backdoor Comedy Club, Stogner is known around town for giving newbies their starts -- she is, in a sense, the Frank Campagna of stand-up -- and many of her protégés have gone on to careers in television and film. The Backdoor Comedy Workshop features an intro course that affords time for young comedians to develop their acts, and the club features the longest-running open-mic night in the Southwest, an opportunity guaranteeing at least three minutes to anyone who wants it every Thursday night.

Shane Pennington Painter, installation artist Everything's bigger for Texas artist Pennington, whose billboard-sized abstract paintings make enormous statements about what it means to live and to be alive. Taught by his beloved grandmother, landscape artists Virgie Cornelius, who lived with Pennington's family as he grew up, Pennington completed his first painting at age 8 under her direction. After her death, Pennington laid aside his passion to pursue a degree in computer science, and he worked as a programmer in Dallas before returning to art. Within a matter of years, Pennington was able to quit his day job and focus solely on his artwork, which envisions everything from the natural world to the mundane, largely unnoticed daily occurrences that we overlook. Working primarily in acrylic paint, but also with wire and found objects, for elaborate installations, Pennington's tour de force is a collection titled Carmen's Wish, a mixture of four massive acrylic-on-canvas paintings of dandelions with a digital video component on permanent display in Chase Tower. Most recently, Pennington headlined Aurora 2011, an outdoor multimedia light instillation that illuminated the Arts District in late October.

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